The Anarchist Handbook by Michael Malice (6/10)

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A collection of essays about anarchism from 1800s to the present. The older essays were quite tedious and repetitive. In the end, some of my key disagreements with anarchism still remained. What do we do with criminals if you need to consent to be incarcerated? How do children fit in this world? Anarchism is a good directional goal, but I doubt it would work at scale.

The Occult in Art by Owen S. Rachleff (7/10)

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This massive coffee table book seems like it would be a lot cooler than it is. Despite its size, it’s mostly fluff and not a deep investigation into occult artists. The bulk of it amounts to finding an old-timey painting that has a monster or witch in it, including a photo of the work, and then describing the work in the text. The book best serves as a starting point in finding artists who occasionally created fantastic imagery. The one point in which the author tries to push some scientific skepticism into the occult happenings, he gets his facts all wrong by describing how the phases of the moon are the result of the Earths shadow being cast on the moon!

Brian and Charles (7/10)

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This is a one joke movie about a man who creates a robot. The joke is that the robot is obviously a guy in a cheap costume comprised of a cardboard box, oversized clothes, and a wig stand. For some unknown reason it starts off as a faux documentary but that stylistic choice is quickly dropped once the story takes hold. It uses well-worn tropes of children becoming adults but everything hinges on that one joke being funny. I was entertained in the same way I might enjoy a competent kids movie and I did laugh a couple of times, but whatever.

Not Accountable: Rethinking the Constitutionality of Public Employee Unions by Philip K. Howard (7/10)

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Public sector unions stink and cause all sorts of problems. This book points out just about every reason why this is the case. They break state and local budgets, hinder innovation in education and public service, and inevitably shape public policy in the self-interest of their members and not the voting public at large. The book’s final argument is that they represent an unelected, private body who has been given the reins of governance. This was not exactly the most entertaining read but its arguments are concise and to-the-point.

Emily the Strange: Strangerous on Nintendo DS (6/10)

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In this point and click puzzle adventure you control Emily on her quest to find her missing cats. Apparently this is based on a comic or something. It has a gothy, surreal, Edward Gorey feel to it. The most noteworthy thing about the game is this stark black, white, and red art style.

The puzzles are mostly very basic. There are maybe 4 or 5 hard number puzzles and a few unfair ones that require you to draw an exact mark on the screen to select the correct answer. Point and click inventory management doesn’t really play a part here. The closest it comes to that are the times when you have to select the correct of four cats to get past a barrier.

Thankfully the game is short and doesn’t wear out its welcome. An ideal sort of game for a portable system like the DS.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky (6/10)

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Well, it’s no Crime and Punishment. The plot revolves mostly around relationships and character interactions within the rules of Russian high society. Not exactly my cup of borscht, I found it to be way too long without anything interesting really happening except for the occasional side story here and there. I know there are deeper meanings to all the happenings, but it never really hooked me. Did I mention it was looooong?

Wonderful and Frightening World - Wood Engraving

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This print was a sort of follow-up to the cosmic weirdness of Man, Ergo. This is was engraved into a block of Resingrave over the course of a month in 2023.

Process Photos

Libido (7/10)

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Ernesto Gastaldi is much better known as a screenwriter rather than a director. He’s responsible for some of the most tightly scripted gialli in that the plots may be ridiculous, but at least they are logically consistent. There is no random, mid-movie clue discovery that changes everything (such as the library book chanced upon in Deep Red or the hero suddenly remembering a detail of a killing). Gastaldi makes a point to call out Argento for this nonsense in many of his interviews and commentaries. As such, everything in Libido is there for a reason. There are four characters, all of whom have a steak in possibly inheriting the fortune of an S&M killer’s estate. It’s not the most intriguing mystery but it does keep you guessing as to who is gaslighting who and, as all involved are equally despicable, ends the only way it possibly could.

Rise of the Triad: Dark War on MS-DOS (8/10)

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Rise of the Triad is a first-generation FPS that technologically sits somewhere between Wolfenstein 3-D and Doom. In fact, it started its development as a follow up to Wolf3D but eventually became its own thing. The map designs are somewhat limited because they are restricted to an orthogonal grid layout. But, on the positive side, the engine allows for the use of a lot of vertical space and overlap. There are raised catwalks, hovering platforms, and bouncy jump pads. The bulk of the gameplay is learning to navigate the various mazes of platforms, secret touch plates, deadly traps, and moving walls.

Of course the biggest innovation of this game was its excessive gore! It’s where the term gibs originated, which describes the flying body parts when an enemy is exploded.

I’ll admit that my love for this game is mostly nostalgia. The actual shootouts are a bit repetitive due to simple enemy A.I. and a lack of variety. Most of the time you are just mowing down everything with your infinite ammo machine gun (which sounds like an outboard motor). There are about half-a-dozen limited use missile weapons and they are all great and it’s always a thrill to pick one up and start blasting away. I wish more effort had been placed into creating these minion baddies. I know they could have been better because each of the four episodes ends with a fun and challenging boss fight that makes you realize how fast and fun the game can be.

Final ROTT boss fight

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the best and most creative part of ROTT: the insane power-ups. Namely God Mode which makes you taller, invulnerable, and able to shoot cosmic energy balls that kill everything on the screen. All the while you are moaning with god-like power!

10 feet tall and moaning with power!

The is also a Dog Mode which allows you to craw under some obstacles and a few negative power-ups too (shrooms mode and elastic mode).

All said, Rise of the Triad: Dark War remains playable and fun decades later. It can be purchased for 60¢ or so on a seasonal sale. The best way to play it is to use the mod called WinRottGL which can easily be found on the ‘net for free.

I am winner!